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Surprise Honey, I Just Added $60,000 to Our Debt

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It was really difficult to decide on a title for this article. My other thoughts were "Surprise Honey, I Decided to Postpone Our Retirement" or the much more boring, "I Still Don't Like Lexus' Holiday Commercials."

Last year I wrote about how I will boycott Lexus for likely the rest of my life. I thought that they'd get bad public relations from their commercial campaign suggesting that giving a Lexus for Christmas is a good surprise. I guess they either didn't market test the commercial or that I'm in the vocal minority.

If you have a minute, view the commercial yourself. It starts off with a husband calling his wife and lying to her about being stuck at work. This is a little white lie and I'm not going to punish Lexus too much for it, but you'd think they could come up with something better. The wife leaves the house to pick up their kid at sports practice and there's a new Lexus with a bow waiting in the driveway.

I'd like to imagine the reaction my wife would give if I did something like that. I would surely be in the dog house. There are Christmas gifts and there's giving one that's 50% more than what the average household earns in a year. The only way I could get away with that is if I also announced that I made a million dollars earlier in the day. Since that million dollars would be around $600,000 after taxes, I might be able to get away with using 10% of it for an extravagant toy. However, even that is stretching it.

Is there a circumstance where you would consider a $60,000 purchase without discussing it with your significant other? Let me know in the comments below.

Last updated on December 27, 2007.

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41 Responses to “Surprise Honey, I Just Added $60,000 to Our Debt”

  1. Samantha says:

    HAHAHAHAHA! Every time that commercial comes on, my husband looks at me and says, “You’d kill me if I ever bought a car without you!” (He’s right.)

    As for when I would consider a $60,000 purchase w/o discussing it with my husband, or he with me, would be a situation much like you described: We won an incredible amount of $$ in a lottery or something such that $60,000 is an insignificant amount of the whole amount.

    How about, though, if you and wife had discussed making an investment of $60,000 in some property. Say you accompanied a friend to a Real Estate auction and a property just like what you and wife had discussed came up for auction. You are confident that this would be a good investment. Would you go ahead and make the $60k commitment without consulting your spouse?

  2. Well I usually don’t discuss investment choices with DW even of that order – granted I wouldn’t blow $60k on OTM call options ;P If I got a $60k consumable though, she would probably have me put in the mental ward. And if she put us 60k down without asking me, I would consider it far worse than cheating.

  3. Lazy Man says:

    Interesting question Samantha. I think I would bring my wife to any auction or at least get permission beforehand, so that it wouldn’t be a surprise.

    It’s worth noting that this isn’t an investment. This is essentially a toy.

  4. Mrs. Micah says:

    @ ERE — it is essentially a form of cheating, actually. Betraying the commitments of your relationship. If those commitments include consulting with each other about big purchases or not putting yourselves in more debt or saving for retirement together…

    Lazy, that was an awesome title! :) I’d probably cry instead of blowing a gasket. Bawling pathetic tears like I was being dumped for a younger woman. Gosh. Even thinking about it makes me feel sad. It’d be a feeling of betrayal and hopelessness—like we’ll never get out of debt and there’s nothing I can do because I’m married to a moron.

    Fortunately, I’m married to a very kind and loving man who is not a moron and also thinks that those commercials (along with every jewelry commercial ever) are dumb/insidious.

    The only good holiday car commercial is for some contest you can win to get a free car for you and someone else. I wouldn’t be as pissed if we did one of those. Then we’d sell the new cars and buy practical ones. :D

  5. Mrs. Micah says:

    Something else I just thought of…I know a woman whose fiance bought her a flat screen tv for her birthday.

    …………….using her credit card.

    Yeah. Not cool. There’s a couple other reasons why I think she should dump him. He seems to be learning, though, so this may not be a complete catastrophic relationship.

  6. moneymonk says:

    Oh I love that commercial it’s so sweet! NOT

    Lazy Man- you have to realize when you are talking to an audience of personal finance junkies, of course our answer will be NO

    But for as the average out of touch middle class person, buying a Lexus is a status symbol.

    It’s like saying honey “WE MADE IT”. We are officially successful!!!

    Buy now, worry about debt later,

    Part II to that commercial is him telling his son we don’t having money for you to go to college, but you can have this paid for Lexus ! LOL

  7. Lazy Man says:

    I realize my audience is not the norm. However, I can’t imagine that flying with any of my friend’s who are not personal finance junkies.

  8. Think Ryuko says:

    I do surprise my wife with jewelry every now and then – but it’s usually something I picked up at a Black Friday frenzy sale (i.e., 1/4 regular price or less). The idea of surprising my wife with a $5k+ “forever diamond” or whatever, geez. I don’t make that kind of money. Not even to mention a Lexus — she’d probably divorce me!

    Granted, they do have Lexuses in the $40k and lower $30k range – they’re not all $60k, and I’ll guess that these lesser expensive ones sell much better. After all, having ANY kind of Lexus is a huge status symbol. And don’t forget – it IS a luxury car, so they’re marketing to the top 10% who can actually afford these things. So…. yeah you’re looking at that tier of America who can actually afford to make these payments on their own salary without affecting their other bills. (only a complete asshole like that mentioned above would consider using the giftee’s income to help pay for said gift!)

  9. Brooke says:

    NO WAY! My husband and I are so tight on our budget that we discuss any expenditure over $20! It might seem a little overboard, but I think each couple has a different limit. $60,000 would probably give me cardiac arrest at the ripe old age of 27.

    What about presents? We don’t even get each other presents because our money is just that – “our money,” and it would seem strange to buy ourselves presents. We’re pretty serious about our budget – go hard, or go home!!! (to a home that’s paid for!!!)

  10. Patrick says:


    OK, let me qualify that a little more… Hell, no! ;)

    My wife and I are good with our expenses and don’t have any hard limits, but we generally talk about anything more than $100. There are exceptions, I’m sure, but there is no way I would do that!

  11. Jonathan says:

    I think the idea of buying a $60k car for a holiday present is a brilliant idea… for the car company marketers :) Complete with the huge red bow.

  12. Jonathan says:

    In addition, I believe the commercial has an implication that the man can do this because he earns all the money and thus can do whatever he wants with it. The stay-at-home-soccer-mom just sits back and says “oh my the breadwinner is so generous!” Yawn.

  13. Sam says:

    Why is the assumption here that people can’t afford a 60k car? The parking lot at my office is full of BMWs, Mercedes, Lexus, and some really high end cars like Bentley and Ferrari and they’re driven by executives who earn 500k and up. Is spending 10% of your income on a car that unreasonable? I think the target audience for these commercials are the execs. Toyota Camry’s and Honda Civics are the commercials for the middle class.

    By the standards here, people making 60k should spend no more than 6k for a car and that’s nearly impossible these days.

  14. I asked for a car for my birthday a couple years ago and got a Mercedes. Of course it’s not like I didn’t know about it though!

  15. Lazy Man says:

    Sam, if you make 500K and up, you probably already have a 60k car. I also don’t think the “soccer mom” portrayed in the commercial should be so against picking up the kid at practice if the dad is “staying at the office late” to make the 500k. In short, they are portrayed as an average couple in the commercial.

  16. fn says:

    Anything over a hundred bucks or so merits at least a courtesy heads up at our house.

    That said, I’d buy a year or two of a great college education for my kids long before a Lexus.

  17. Dantheman55 says:

    The commercial makes it tough to be a common middle class man, just as the diamond commercials do. Sam missed the point of your question. It wasn’t can you afford it? It was would you do it without your wife’s knowledge? Any sane man in a good marriage would say NO.

  18. anonymous says:

    In all fairness, you’re making all kinds of assumptions from a 30 second commercial. Maybe they *had* talked about it. Maybe she’d been hinting that she wanted the car, they’d been discussing it and could afford it, but the actual purchase was a surprise?

    And maybe, just maybe, they could even afford it.

    I’ve surprised my wife with plenty of $100 purchases, and even $500 purchases. Heck, I surprised her with an engagement ring that cost a couple thousand dollars. For some people that would be too extravagant, but they fit well within our budget. But clearly there are people for whom a Lexus is well within reach.

  19. Tim says:

    I spent $20k on a watch without telling my wife about it. was I naughty?

  20. anonymous says:

    ‘Sam, if you make 500K and up, you probably already have a 60k car. I also don’t think the “soccer mom” portrayed in the commercial should be so against picking up the kid at practice if the dad is “staying at the office late” to make the 500k. In short, they are portrayed as an average couple in the commercial.’

    baloney. They are not portrayed as an average couple, unless the ‘average couple’ lives in a 5000 sq. ft. house with a secluded drive and professionally trimmed hedges.

    And as the spouse of a high-earner, I can testify that even if your spouse makes a mid 6-figure income, you still want them to do their fair share of the housework.

  21. Sam says:

    # Dantheman55 responded:
    “The commercial makes it tough to be a common middle class man, just as the diamond commercials do. Sam missed the point of your question. It wasn’t can you afford it? It was would you do it without your wife’s knowledge? Any sane man in a good marriage would say NO.”

    Do you think Donald Trump clears it with his wife before he buys her a car? What about Bill Gates? if the answer is no, they can do whatever they want then where does the line get drawn? Does a person who makes 100 million a year need to get permission to spend 60k? What about someone who makes 10 million/year? What about 1 million/year?

  22. Lazy Man says:

    Sam, I’m not so sure that Lexus is putting the commercial on TV to get Trump’s or Gates’ attention. Someone making 1M a year probably drives an even better car than a Lexus.

    I’d draw the line at around 500K a year. As I previously mentioned, it doesn’t look like they are a 500K family. The commercial shows them as average couple, no hint of them being in the top 1% of earners.

  23. JHS says:

    Considering that California is a community property state and encumbrances are also “community” if community assets are relied upon to pay/secure the debt, e.g., wages or salary, then my husband would be in deep trouble if he pulled such a stunt. What a ridiculous commercial (I haven’t actually seen it.)

    Thanks for participating in this weeks’ Carnival of Family Life which will go live on Monday, January 24, 2007, at 12:01 a.m. (Pacific time). We have LOTS of wonderful entries this week and the Carnival is going to be fabulous! Be sure you drop by and check out some of the other entries.

    How ’bout hosting one week? Have you signed up yet? The schedule is posted at Colloquium.

    Happy Holidays!

  24. Tim says:

    i’m not sure what the usefulness of dissecting the commercial. Really, any commercial is going to portray a fantasy reality. Commercials are designed to illicit aspirational wants. These “luxury” commercials are designed to target those in the “aspirational” class, who have just enough extra income to afford a $60k car. They key for all of us is to disassociate a marketer’s idea of what we should want versus our real wants and needs. It doesn’t matter how much you make, if you can afford a $60k car and want to spend $60k on a car for whatever reason, so be it.

  25. GeckoGirl says:

    I guess I’m the lone voice of dissent here. Hubby and I put down about 60% on the last car we bought and hope to be able to pay cash for the next one. Therefore, if we were already in the market for a new car and he just came home with one, I wouldn’t necessarily be upset, provided the car he got was something that we’d already agreed upon. That would just mean he saved me the trouble of finding a car (we buy pre-owned) and haggling with the dealer.

  26. Meg says:

    Unfortunately, most people I know would be THRILLED if their spouses came home with a surprise Lexus. Women and men alike would likely view it as an extremelly generous and meaningful gift. On top of that they would LOVE the opportunity to brag about their spouses’ generosity (and simultaneously about their financial successes) to their friends.

    Of course that all assumes that the couple make upwards of $150,000 a year. But many couples do, and many more don’t know/care much about what financial prudence would dictate. So no, I don’t think it’s completely outrageous, especially as materialistic consumption-promoting commercials go.

    In fact, if I had all my financial ducks in a row and got a $200,000 bonus, I might consider such a purchase for my spouse under certain circumstances (like that I knew he wanted that exact car, and he hadn’t had a new car in years). And I certainly wouldn’t be mad if my high-earning spouse bought me a car–assuming again that our financial situation was stellar.

  27. Tommy says:

    Blowing 60K on a car without consulting with the Mrs. would result in me having at least one or two new ones ripped in me within 30 secs.

  28. jim says:

    Yeah, I always thought these ads were ridiculous, it’s one thing to get jewelry without consulting… but a CAR!?!?!?! But I suppose it works because they always run those ads…

  29. Robert says:

    my wife and I are on a strict budget and after seeing the lexus commercial together, she told me that she wants me to surprise her with a car for christmas or her birthday some year, and I’m excited about it, and we’ll be paying cash.

    we hope to make 250K this year and she currently drives a $1K (yes, that’s one thousand dollars)1996 ford escort. she’ll deserve more than whatever car I surprise her with, but it’ll probably be a $20K used Honda Pilot, not a $60K Lexus.

  30. Scope says:

    Anyone who buys new is a chump anyways. Buy a 3-year old used.

  31. Joseph Sangl says:

    Lexus knows that most Americans spend money with a short-term mindset. They might “know” that spending the money on a car that will drop in value like a rock is a bad idea, but they don’t have to pay the consequences of the decision in a massive way for years to come. They can enjoy the luxurious car immediately.

    I have always laughed at these commercials when the announcer dude says “make this a December to remember …”

    I can promise you it WOULD be a December to remember if I bought this stupid car without my bride’s input.

    I have no problem with Lexus or owning a Lexus. I have a problem with the perceived deception between spouses.

  32. JB says:

    I don’t like the premise behind the commercial either and mere mortals could not go out and buy the car without repercussions. But the one couple I know of where someone got a car for xmas, the car purchase was planned, just not for a specific day. So when I watch that commercial I kinda thought they had talked about it and were going to buy a luxury sedan :)

  33. Justin says:

    I didn’t realise the car was fully optioned. From the ads it looks like an RX to me, which start at 37K. Now, apart from that, yes, my wife would kill me too.

  34. Eric says:

    I think my wife would gladly take the Lexus…she would use it to drive to the closest divorce attorney!

  35. Omie says:

    I suppose it is for all of those yuppie suburbanites who have money to burn. It caters to rich people, the poor schmucks that work for a living cannot afford the car. The commercial makes me hate Lexus.

  36. Omie says:

    Mercedes and even Cadillac have similar commercials.

  37. It’s 2009 and they’re still showing that commercial. Or maybe a new version. Or some car company is showing something similar to the one you mention. I told my hubby last night what a mess of a present that would be! Neither of us believe in buying brand new cars as it is. If one of us ever did that we’d probably have him or her committed. ;-)

  38. Lazy Man says:

    Yep I’ve noticed that.

  39. Suzieqs says:

    I hate this commercial. It’s bad enough the Giants are losing only to be interrupted by this annoying commercial with a tune that just grates on my nerves. Even if I had money for a Lexus I would say Lex-us buy another car. In this economy does anyone except the ‘one percent’ lol have money for this unless they got into 60,000 dollars in debt.? If my spouse did this, he would be living in the dam Lexus.

  40. Geekoid says:

    Since everyone in the commercial is living in a million dollar house, and wearing 200 dollar shoes, just assume the commercial is for people who can afford it. i.e. not you.
    If you were asking 250K+ a year, this would be fine. Also, wouldn’t it be 60K – the cost of another car that you should talk about?

  41. Lazy Man says:

    Of course the commercial isn’t for the average person, but do you know how many times it was played during football games at Thanksgiving? It had to be upwards of 30 times. You know who watches football at Thanksgiving – the people who aren’t living in a million dollar house and wearing $200 shoes.

    Additionally, this alienates about what 99.99% (maybe a few more 9’s) of America. We are close to being able to buy a $60K car (if we wanted to, but we’ll probably invest it in better ways – even Buffet drives a clunker for his billions), and I’d go for any other car company than this one.

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